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Bye bye NDA, but for...
- Mamata’s decision on BJP ties on Monday

Calcutta, Nov. 1: But for another sudden change of heart, Mamata Banerjee appears set to quit the BJP-led NDA.

Trinamul Congress sources said a formal announcement is likely at a general council meeting on Monday.

“Mamata has already made up her mind…. Monday’s meeting is significant,” said a key Trinamul leader from north Calcutta.

Mamata hinted as much, saying: “I have decided to announce an important policy decision concerning my future strategy in front of party workers.”

Asked if the “policy decision” was on her relations with the NDA, she averted a direct answer. “Be patient. You’ll know everything on Monday.”

Congress general secretary in charge of Bengal Margaret Alva said from Delhi tonight that she would be the “happiest person” if Mamata quits the NDA. “Mamata is a good friend of mine and I am in regular touch with her,” she added.

The Youth Congress today invited Mamata to join a rally in front of the health headquarters on Monday to protest against officials’ alleged involvement in the blood test kit scam. “We need her support,” Youth Congress president Amitava Chakraborty said.

Mamata today led a sit-in outside the Central Blood Bank at Manicktala to protest against the health department’s alleged role in the scam.

The Congress, which had supported last month’s Trinamul-sponsored bandh in protest against land acquisition in Singur, had been sending feelers to her with the request to snap ties with the NDA since the September 16 bypolls.

Mamata had backed the Congress nominee for the Malda Lok Sabha seat, though the BJP, her official partner, was in the fray. The Congress reciprocated by not fielding a candidate for the Bongaon Assembly seat. Trinamul withdrew its candidate in Purulia and the Congress in Katwa — both Lok Sabha seats.

There was no change in the winners, though, with the CPM retaining Purulia and Katwa and the Congress and Trinamul holding on to Malda and Bongaon.

Bongoan MLA Saugata Roy today said: “The bypoll arrangement produced results and that inspired Mamata to forge closer ties with the Congress. The Congress had worked sincerely for us then.”

Sources said leaders such as Roy and Sobhandeb Cha-ttopadhyay were pressuring Mamata to sever her BJP ties, holding it responsible for the shrinking minority vote bank.

“She had to desert the BJP for her own political survival,” said a south Calcutta MLA.

The Congress said it would draw up joint programmes with Trinamul immediately. “Talks on a poll pact also have to start right away for the 2008 panchayat elections,” said state Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya.

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